Introducing : BraveTalk At UnPluggd [Failure. Survival And Everything In Between]

Startups are about iterations – some work and some don’t. And many a times, they don’t. So what happens to those entrepreneurs? What happens to those lessons?
While the world tend to celebrate success (more so, equating funding news to success), the truth is that there are several founders who are struggling and some are brave enough to talk it out.
Introducing. . At UnPluggd.
BraveTalk at UnPluggd brings together some real lessons around shutdown, struggles, failures, being written off that founders have been through. These are the lessons that nobody talks in public forum, except at UnPluggd.
Introducing the first speaker as part of BraveTalk session.
Pravin Of Wishberg.pravin-beingpractical

Till recently Pravin (@BeingPractical) was the Founder & CEO of Wishberg, one of the most looked up startups in India.

At UnPluggd, Pravin will talk about his journey of starting Wishberg.

Topic : “If I Startup Again…” 

Wishberg was acqui-hired by FreeCharge recently.
Like every other entrepreneur, Pravin started with the aim of building a large billion dollar company but unfortunately that was not the outcome of his entrepreneurial journey. He shares his mistakes, failures, learnings, experiences from his 1000 day journey, and things he would do when he will startup again.


If you are an entrepreneur who is willing to share-it-all at BraveTalk session, please do apply using this form.

UnPluggd Winter Edition Details

Date : December 6th.
Venue : Hotel Park Plaza, Marthahalli, Bangalore.
Speakers/Agenda : The partial list is out.
Registration details : Hop here.
Discount: Use the code NEXTBIGWHATTWO to grab 30  40% discount!! [valid only till this weekend, i.e .Nov 24th].
Use the ticketing widget below.

Got questions? Ask : team@nextbigwhat.com

Wanna know what happens at BraveTalk? Watch this video. Kingsley pretty much sets the standard for others!

Book Review : The Hard Thing About Hard Things [Don’t Read This If You Romanticize Entrepreneurship]

Entrepreneurship is a journey filled with rejections, failure and a whole lot of personal trauma (note : if you aren’t facing any of these as an entrepreneur, you aren’t just pushing the envelope enough).

The Hard Thing About Hard Things
The Hard Thing About Hard Things

And while most of the talks about startups and entrepreneurship are about successes and tend to celebrate all-that-went-well, very few talk about startup failures.

No, it’s not just about talking failure. It’s about talking the shit that goes inside building a company – be it about firing your team to taking tough decisions.

Imagine yourself in the shoes of Kevin Rose, Digg founder – who decided not to sell Digg at its peak. And later got peanuts. Imagine yourself laying off your team just because the ship is about to sink and you want to hold on that for as long as possible. Sometimes startups are like that only. And all of the times, the founder/CEO is responsible for all the (bad) decisions.

And once you make a bad decision, you are fucked. By employees / investors / media –  everybody writes you off. It’s tough sticking your neck and deciding on anything.

Review : The Hard Thing About Hard Things

If you thought starting up was all about getting media attention and raising funding, you need to read ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things‘, probably the most amazing book I have ever read on startup space.

Written by Ben Horowitz, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz VC firm and software company Loudcloud (Ops-ware), Ben offers an UnPluggd/ blunt/ straight piece of advice on working through the startup life.

Ben nicely shares a lot of anecdotes on hiring/firing/sales and how a founder needs to follow his/her guts than go by general advice. And ofcourse, a lot of practical advice – for e.g. how much of using rough language (like fuck) is allowed in a corporate setup? How do you differentiate between a genuinely fucked up feeling vs. somebody passing a sexist remark? Where and how do you draw the line?

The Hard Thing About Hard Things : What It Is Not

For sure, the book does NOT offer any gassy advice on ‘how to run a business’.  Or ‘success tips’ from a successful entrepreneur. The book is NOT meant for a bedtime reading.

The book is something you will probably read when you are wide awake and in a deep shit mode! In fact, read it when you are in a never-ending-roller-coaster-ride because you will atleast have something to relate to (I have!).

For instance, Ben nicely describes the two types of CEOs – Peacetime CEO and Wartime CEO. That is, Eric Schmidt who Vs Larry Page.

Peacetime CEO knows that proper protocol leads to winning. Wartime CEO violates protocol in order to win.

Peacetime CEO focuses on the big picture and empowers her people to make detailed decisions. Wartime CEO cares about a speck of dust on a gnat’s ass if it interferes with the prime directive.

Peacetime CEO sets big, hairy audacious goals. Wartime CEO is too busy fighting the enemy to read management books written by consultants who have never managed a fruit stand.

Peacetime CEO does not raise her voice. Wartime CEO rarely speaks in a normal tone.

Peacetime CEO has rules like “we’re going to exit all businesses where we’re not number 1 or 2.”  Wartime CEO often has no businesses that are number 1 or 2 and therefore does not have the luxury of following that rule. [Ben’s blog]

Most of the startup founders (including myself) tend to be the wartime CEO (just that we don’t know the right term to describe that emotion). And till date, nobody has written any book on wartime CEOs, maybe because most of the wartime CEOs lose the battle and in general, aren’t considered a darling.

But for most of the wartime CEOs, the focus needs to be on the road and not the wall – and that’s one BIG perspective Ben Horowitz leaves you with.

Grab a copy and read it. Skip, if you are in the romantic phase of your startup life and everything around you looks beautiful.

Of Startup Failure And A BraveTalk By First Time Entrepreneur

[Editorial Notes: Starting up is tough. Staying the course is tougher. That was the whole point behind the Bravetalk at UnPluggd this time. Only about 2 in 10 make it. But what you learn at the startup will stay for life. In this post, Bhuvan Thaker talks about his journey as an entrepreneur.]

Year 2008: The vision of the venture was to create healthy products and build loveable Indian global brands, and hence I started with my 1st product- gourmet Indian cookies.

The brand name I chose was “ba” that meant “Mother” in Gujarati, and it was also culturally neutral sounding name.

Identity Guideline Sheet

ba1

I was clear I had to create a differentiated product and hence the product roadmap was based on cookies that had Indian millets and grains as the main ingredient, and since I am based in Bangalore, I felt I should start with ragi (finger millet) based cookies and thus my 1st set range was born. Real healthy cookies made with ragi, whole wheat and ghee (clarified butter).

Purpose, Proposition and Personality

(Product photography, packaging and communication)

Future plans were to introduce cookies based on Indian millets and grains and mix them with tea, cheese and specialty spices of India to create a well differentiated and interesting product range.

Now I needed knowledge to understand basics of baking and so that I could evaluate manufacturers and other vendors in the process. After spending enough time meeting people from the baking industry and different vendors of raw material and as well as learning online, I started hunting for the right kind of manufacturer who would not throw his weight on me regarding quantity, price and also have integrity of quality.

After meeting a number of local manufacturers, I bumped into the bakery department at ISKCON temple. After several requests they agreed to help me produce cookies as per my needs, even though it was expensive; I was relieved that I won’t be cheated on the quantity and quality. And finally, after several months my manufacturing problem was sorted out.

Similarly, after meeting many packaging and labeling vendors, I finally froze on paper tube packaging, even though it costed much more than the traditional biscuit packaging it was a perfect combination of strength and reliability. Here’s a look at the literature we came up with.

baCookie packaging

ba2

I found only one vendor in Bangalore who could do quality work, it was expensive in terms of time and money I had to spend on convincing him to help me with small quantities. Finally, I had to give-in to their terms and place large quantity orders.

I then started approaching MNCs with the idea of regular snacking at the office and corporate gifting. Surprisingly the Yahoos and Googles of the world and other MNCs don’t have the same benefits in India, which they offer in their homeland. I was surprised to see them serving Parle-G as free snacking. However, corporate gifting worked well and I gained some momentum for the festival season.

On the consumer front I was building this brand to serve the niche market – 150 grams of cookies were to be retailed at Rs 180. I was targeting consumers who would purchase imported snacks and grocery products in gourmet stores. And Bangalore being the hub for expatriates, living in Whitefield and Indiranagar areas, I was hopeful of them subscribing fresh cookies on a monthly basis.

The concept of subscribing cookies is unheard in India, but I have heard in the west people tend to place orders for the benefit of lower prices and freshness. I assumed expats would accept the concept of subscribing cookies if someone offered them.

With the help of commonfloor.com I promoted my offers to the residents of Whitefield, approximately 2000 households to understand the responses. Sadly, the efforts did not bring any fruit. It was loud and clear people did not want to commit to the regular ration of fresh cookies, even though they loved the product, i.e. its taste and its benefits to children, and the price was also not an issue once they knew what they were offered as a product. In fact, they insisted that sales be made via departmental stores.

I somehow chose not to listen to them, for the simple reason that I didn’t have much capital left and working out a successful retail model will create a dent in my cash flow. So I continued finding ways to sell direct2consumer and found e-commerce was an ideal option. After few months of pursuing e-commerce companies I was selected as a vendor with ngpay.com, Homeshop18 and Rediff Shopping. Interestingly, the courier system in our country is so bad that it would ensure that people didn’t purchase food items online.

After many months of trial and error selling online, I realized I had to change my direct business model and work with the retail channel, even though I was worried about cash flow issues.

Shutting Down & Moving On

I had committed myself to this venture, and I was in a do-or-die situation, so I started talking to all the distributors of imported products; they wouldn’t introduce the product to the retailer, even the double digit margins as well as the ISKCON brand name wasn’t working with them. Then I started contacting gourmet retailers directly and realized that this channel has tremendous potential but a new player requires lots of capital to play the retail game.

I again started focusing on corporate gifting to sell off existing inventories and simultaneously started contacting early stage investors to invest in my venture. Most investors I met were only interested to invest at the growth stage, and here I was struggling to start.

Passion was running high and I was unable to see the practical side of my situation and continued pursuing various avenues. Now I was focusing on trying my luck on export and travel retail. I contacted importers and travel retail distributors, and in the process sent out many, many samples. I changed packaging, labels, etc to suite their requirements but nothing was working out. In the background, the bakery manager at ISKCON was becoming restless since the partnership was not bringing in the promised volumes and revenues.

I was now left with very little money to pursue my dream any further. I took some time to come to terms with the reality, and I had to convince myself to pause. In February 2012 I closed down my venture and after a few months I started helping entrepreneurs by sharing my experiences with them.

This journey, I think is the most daring thing I have done till date, risking it all; the experience has given me immense learning and has been a fulfilling one. Professionally, it helped me grow and look at situations objectively; personally, it has enriched me and helped me take control of “fear”. In fact it has opened me up to the many possibilities that life brings to us. And along the way I have made curiosity, appreciation for things, and imagination my friends who keep me going.

In your views, what mistakes should I have avoided? What could I have done differently?
[About the Author: Bhuvan Thaker is an Independent Marketing Professional. He was the founder of Divine Food Venture and has worked with creative brand agencies.]

Of Startup Failure And Having An Amazing Life : Kingsley Joseph At UnPluggd

Startups are about iterations – some work and some don’t. And many a times, they don’t.
So what happens to those entrepreneurs? What happens to those lessons?

 is NextBigWhat’s way to initiate conversations around startup failure  (» Read : Stop Glorifying Failure. Failure is Not Fun. It’s Not Cool to Fail.).

At UnPluggd, Kingsley Joseph who cofounded 2 startups earlier shared some of the key lessons learned with startup failure and had several great insights to share (delivered via animated gifs).

Watch Kingsley UnPluggd!

Welcome To The Big UnPluggd : Everything You’d Like To Know [May 24th]!

Ladies and Gentlemen

THE UNPLUGGD CROWD
THE UNPLUGGD CROWD

UnPluggd is happening on Saturday,May 24th and ofcourse, the NextBigWhat team is super excited about the event. Like any great startup, UnPluggd started as an experiment (first event had 20 people) and after a few PoCs, we realized that our philosophy of ‘amazing content’ has serious takers.

Today, UnPluggd has become a powerful force : startups launch and get huge visibility -and not just among investors, but importantly, potential customers and users.

The core philosophy of UnPluggd is that entrepreneurs need to learn from each other (and not from babas). We have very little patience for gyaawn and a lot of respect for actionable insights. You’ll see a lot of these insights and hard-talks @UnPluggd.

Over the last few years, UnPluggd has become THE launchstage for Indian startups. We are super happy to announce that Qualcomm is announcing QPrize Winner at UnPluggd!!! Automobile company, Skoda is showcasing its new vehicle; Jana is launching its service in India and yeah, 10 startups are launching their product at UnPluggd!!

And yes, Sachin Bansal and Mukesh Bansal are coming over at UnPluggd – their first appearance after the acquisition announcement! It’s a big day for the startup space and we certainly hope that more people will beenfit from these interactions.

And ofcourse, a lot of you have been asking whether we have spot registration at the venue : The answer is YES, WE DO ! Come over to SPOT REGISTRATION counter and you are good to go (PS: no discount codes apply for spot regn).

UnPluggd DetailsUnPluggd-Logo-1.png

Date: May 24th (Saturday); 9 AM – 6 PM, followed by networking evening.
Venue: MLR Convention Center, J P Nagar, Bangalore.
URL : http://www.unpluggd.org
Contact Details: Ashish [+9 196324 26043] OR Ankit [+9 198459. 86241].
REGISTER : Buy tickets from our ticketing partners OR simply use the ticketing option below:

 

The (updated) UnPluggd Agenda

8:30 AM Registration
9:00 AM The Art of Scale
Speakers : Suresh Sambadnam [OrangeScape] and Vikas Malpani [Commonfloor]
10:00 AM Cracking Traction
Speakers : Amarpreet Kalkat (Frrole) and Ankit Pruthi (Unicommerce).
11:00 AM Coffee Break
11:15 PM Qualcomm QPrize Winner Announcement
12:00 PM The UnPluggd Conversation With Sachin Bansal And Mukesh Bansal
12:45 PM Lunch
13:30 PM PitchStop Session 
15:30 PM Jana.com Launch
15:45 PM Tea, Coffee and Networking Break.
16:15 PM From Startup FailureKiran Kumar (Adepto), Utsav Agarwal (nwplyng) and Kingsley Joseph (TripThirsty).
17:15 PM Cracking the Consumer Code : Behaviors That’ll Blow Your Mind
Participants : Sai Gaddam (Author, A Billion Wicked Thoughts), Alok Goel (Freecharge) and Vishal Anand (CPO @NewsHunt)
18:00 PM Goodies Distribution
7:00PM – 10:00 PM Networking Evening

Unpluggd networking : Cracking the Core
Unpluggd networking : Cracking the Core
ANd if you wanna atttend the focused networking evening as well, buy the ticket :

Announcing: The #BraveTalk Entrepreneurs Talking About Startup Failures At UnPluggd

Startups are about iterations – some work and some don’t. And many a times, they don’t.
So what happens to those entrepreneurs? What happens to those lessons?

Honestly, there needs to be a platform that brings everybody together – a melting pot of the ones who have tried, the ones who are still trying!

Talking Failure @UnPluggd
Talking Failure @UnPluggd

 is NextBigWhat’s way to initiate conversations around startup failure.

Yes, there has been a general talk around celebrating startup failures, but most of it has been a lip-service. We strongly believe that the community first needs to talk about startup failures and accept it as part-and-parcel of the game. That’s the first step towards creating a healthy ecosystem! (» Read : Stop Glorifying Failure. Failure is Not Fun. It’s Not Cool to Fail.).

And today, we are happy to announce the BraveTalk speakers for UnPluggd [May 24th/Bangalore]!!

In no particular order, here are our :

Kiran Kumar
Kiran cofounded Adepto which later got acquired by Kuliza. At UnPluggd, Kiran will share some of the hard lessons learned during and importantly, after the startup.


Utsav Agarwal
At the end of a 10,000 kilometer road trip, Agrawal started a new venture. He put together a small team and doggedly pursued the idea. Shipped. Many months later, the first time entrepreneur, had to shut it down. In his talk, Agrawal will share lessons he learned.


Kingsley Joseph
Kingsley did 2 startups and joined 1. They didn’t do so well. But the story doesn’t end here. The aftermath of failure is more painful. Kingsley will share that at UnPluggd.


UNPLUGGD DETAILS

Date: May 24th (Saturday); 9 AM – 6 PM, followed by after-event party.
Venue: MLR Convention Center, J P Nagar, Bangalore.
URL/Agenda : http://www.unpluggd.org
Ticketing: Hop to the ticketing partners site (link) or use the below widget to grab your seat!

unpluggd_seat
    OR REGISTER TO PAY @VENUE


Introducing : #BraveTalk at UnPluggd [May 24th/Bangalore]

Every UnPluggd, we bring in amazing content. Content that is straight from the heart and brings in actionable insights to the audience.

This UnPluggd summer edition, we are happy to announce launch of a new series – .

BraveTalk is our way to talk about failure. Yes, there has been a general talk around celebrating startup failures, but most of it has been a lip-service. We strongly believe that the community first needs to talk about startup failures and accept it as part-and-parcel of the game. That’s the first step towards creating a healthy ecosystem! (» Read : Stop Glorifying Failure. Failure is Not Fun. It’s Not Cool to Fail.).

To give you a quick idea, we tracked close to 1300+ ecommerce stores in the country and a year later, only a few have survived. But the frenzy of launching an ecommerce store hasn’t died. What are the new ones learning from others?

BraveTalk is an attempt to get the discussion going in a more structured manner (we have always respected/brought in entrepreneurs who dare to talk about failure).

Talking Startup Failure @UnPluggd
Muki Celebrating His Failure(s) @UnPluggd

And You!

As with most of our conferences, YOU can apply for the talk. Fill in the form( towards the end of this post*) and we will connect with you (deadling: May 15th). The idea is to bring in entrepreneurs who have really given it all and ready to share it all!

 

UNPLUGGD : DETAILS

Date: May 24th (Saturday); 9 AM – 6 PM, followed by after-event party.
Venue: MLR Convention Center, J P Nagar, Bangalore.
URL/Agenda : http://www.unpluggd.org
Launch Stage Application : The deadline is May 15th. Apply NOW
Ticketing: Hop to the ticketing partners site (link) or use the below widget to grab your seat!




* APPLY FOR BRAVETALK

» The NextBigWhat Promise: UnPluggd Will Be SEXY!